More than 600 people gathered at Sydney Town Hall on 12 May to demand an end to Black deaths in custody. 

The protest, called by activist organisation Fighting in Resistance Equally (FIRE), heard from families of Aboriginal people killed by police, and committed Black activists, including nine-year-old Justice, who addressed the rally:

“Last night there was a Black death in custody at Mount Druitt. Nobody ever talks about it. We might go there today and see who it was, if we can get the evidence to see who it was. There’s been too many Black deaths in custody … Like Elijah got hit by a car because he was on a motorbike. That’s a shame. And TJ Hickey got hit by police and fell off his bike and they called it an accident.”

In 1991, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody concluded that too many Aboriginal people were placed in custody too often and too many were being killed. 

But nearly 30 years on, Indigenous people remain the most incarcerated people on Earth. 

A 2015 report by law firm Clayton Utz found that the bulk of the royal commission’s 339 recommendations remain unimplemented or only partially implemented.  Since the recommendations were made, more than 340 Indigenous people have died in custody.

Just days before the protest, footage emerged from Western Australia of a police car veering across a road and hitting 18-year-old Aboriginal man William Farmer, before he was arrested while having a seizure. Before the footage was published, police claimed that Farmer had “collided” with the police vehicle. 

“While the murders continue … we can’t afford to stay quiet. The violence and brutality of the police towards Black people in this country demand our outrage and action”, Gavin Stanbrook, one of the rally organisers, said. 

“We know we have a lot of people on our side – Invasion Day shows that. But it can’t just be one day a year. We want to rebuild Black deaths in custody as an issue that the whole country knows about – that every anti-racist knows they have to march against.”